Now, this will be an unusual article for me to write about SEO, but since there has been a great deal of speculation from any web geek, even from our SEO consultant on whether link shorteners, such as bit.ly and goo.gl pass link juice, I want to give it a try and say it – Google pass PR juice but only from a few URL shorteners.
Prior to last weeks, when Matt Cutts announced that Google takes the 301 redirects from URL shorteners to pass link juice, people could only speculate. As we enter the social realm of micro-blogging, it’s only valid that our URL shorteners impact our search relevance.
Matt Cutts illustrates Google’s push to emphasize more online social behaviors in their search results. Since most URL use permanent 301 redirects, Google will give full link juice (PageRank juice) to that respective URL short. Link juice refers to the passing of contextual significance hyperlink anchor text. Here is a list of URL shorteners that do and don’t pass link juice.
URL shorteners services which pass link juice
URL shorteners services which do NOT pass link juice:
Many people debate about whether PageRank is even relevant? It certainly can be used as a benchmark but is it really that important to focus all of your efforts on PageRank when you could be trying to improve search relevance.
We don’t need to go in to depth about how important search relevance is; but for competitive industries like the mobile and IP phone systems industry, even a few bumps in search relevance can mean thousands of page views!
The truth is that most high level and social networking sites use “nofollow” links, which don’t pass PageRank link juice anyways. However, even for nofollow sites, URL shorteners are now confirmed to pass information that affects search relevance and rankings. Many Google critics claim that nofollowed links should in fact be followed because they are of value.
Is that a direction that Google may head? According to Will Critchlow of SEOMoz, “some nofollow links should be followed“. In the interests of finding the best content for their searchers, search engines are increasingly going to have to use their own (algorithmic) judgment to disregard some nofollows and include those links in their link graph.” For webmasters and link builders, we may be finding that the “set in stone” rules aren’t necessarily a one size fits all approach. If Google begins following nofollow links in parts of their algorithm, we can expect chaos in the SEO world. But for now, just trust that URL shortening services bump your destination page relevance with each retweet and follower.
What does this mean for you? If you are using URL shorteners, make sure you use one that employs 301 redirects. This will pass both anchor text and link juice to your site, depending on where the link is coming from. Incorporate a social media strategy to build a platform for retweets, and push links on the likes of Twitter and Facebook with reckless abandon. Now, search engine strategy is a whole other animal but keep in mind that Google is pushing away from PageRank, and focusing more on individual keyword SEO and social search in the future.